Budget & Tax

How does Oklahoma state spending compare?

October 3, 2017

Curtis Shelton

With special session underway, it is important not to miss the forest for the trees. What is the truth about state government spending?

I noted recently that Oklahoma government spending has reached an all-time high. No matter how much talk there is about funds being slashed or depleted, total spending is higher than ever before at $17.9 billion.

OCPA also looked at how state spending has changed when compared to population growth, and found similar results. This time we look at how Oklahoma’s spending compares to nearby states.


The states included here, in addition to Oklahoma, are Texas, Kansas, Arkansas, and Tennessee. The data shows Oklahoma right in the middle in terms of total state spending per person. As of 2016 Oklahoma was spending $4,577 per person, more than Texas and Tennessee. You can see from the chart that Oklahoma experienced a high level of spending growth in the mid to late 2000’s which slows down as the state enters into two economic recessions.

We have reported that budget shortfalls can happen no matter how much a state taxes or spends. Others have talked a lot about Oklahoma losing teachers to Texas because of better pay. Somehow Texas is able to do this with a much lower per capita spending level and without a state income tax. Time and again the evidence suggests Oklahoma does not have a revenue problem, but a problem with wasteful spending.